By Alicia Werle, Breaking Free
Yes, you read the title of this article correctly. The countdown to Christmas has already begun and we have less than 95 days until the most celebrated event of the year.
The holiday season is the most joyous and exciting time of the year, sharing it with loved ones and family members that we rarely ever get to see. You might be surprised to know that it is also one of the most stressful and difficult times of year for many families and hard working parents. Studies have shown that more people go further into debt by borrowing money and swiping their credit cards during Christmas then any other time of year.
Let us show you how to fill your pantries for those holiday parties, put top name brand gifts and toys under the Christmas Tree and be able to donate to Christmas charities with the money you save.
#1: Make A Budget
One of the most important things that you can do that is most often overlooked is put a Christmas spending budget it place. When people are asked what they spent on this wonderful holiday a majority of them either have no idea or their guesses are almost never anywhere near what they actually spent. Start a simple excel spreadsheet for every single person you need to buy presents for and then what you are going to spend on each person. You should try to work backwards from what your total Christmas budget number is overall to make sure you stay within your goals. You should get that budget number by deciding how much money you can save from your paycheck each week starting now until Christmas finally arrives. Make sure that when you decide to only spend $10 or $20 on someone that you actually stick to that budgeted amount.
#2: Start Shopping Early
Most people think that Black Friday is the best time and the only time of year to get the best deals. As an avid couponer I can tell you with 100 percent assurance that this is completely untrue. For years I used to go out at 3 am in the morning and stand in line in the cold and fighting the crowds just to save a few dollars at these stores that tell you “Black Friday the only time to shop”. You can actually get these great deals all year long and at better pricing just by signing up for a few emails and see the hot deals as they go live. My goal when shopping for most gifts is to get them at 70-75 percent off of retail. There are only a few exceptions to that rule. And, yes, I am buying all of the same top name brand items, toys and gifts that you are. Anyone in your family like Disney or Bath and Body Works? Mine too. Register to get daily emails from Krazy Coupon Lady, Passion for Savings, and Yes We Coupon, and I guarantee you will see your expensive Christmas spending from years past being cut by at least 50% or much more.
#3 Always use a Coupon
This one seems like common sense but you might be surprised to know that over 90 percent of American Homes do not use a single coupon when doing their holiday shopping. There are coupons out there and available for almost every item you would ever want to buy or almost every store that you would ever want to shop at. Whether you are physically going into the store or doing most of your shopping online there are coupons readily available.
Let me give you some very simple examples. If you have a special someone on your list who likes clothes and fashion then this will be an easy one for you. Kohl’s has coupons for 30% off and then you can also use a $10 off your $30 -purchase. This includes sale items so you could easily walk out of the store getting clothes at 75 to 85 percent off and check those people off of your Christmas list.
Another very simple way to get coupons for Christmas is by using a site called coupons.com. This site very often has coupons for popular board games like Hasbro and toys like Fisher Price which come in Handy at stores like Target and Walmart when those items go on sale. If you have someone who is difficult to shop for and you always send them a gift card then do not pay full price for those either. A few stores in town offer in-store credits when you purchase gift cards from their stores. Rite Aid and CVS are known to pay you to buy other store gift cards from them. They offer discounts from $5 to $10 off many stores gift cards like Bass Pro Shops, Old Navy, The Gap and many others.
Another simple trick when looking to save money shopping online is to use sites like Retail Me Not and grab those 20 percent off and free shipping coupon codes from your favorite stores.
#4 Earn Extra Holiday Money By Using Rebate Apps
What if I told you that you could make money for groceries that you buy every day and put little to no work into it. Most people never take the time to learn how to coupon or save money because they think it takes way too much time.
Rebate apps are a very easy solution that you can use that literally takes less than 60 seconds. There are rebate apps out there that will pay you real money when you buy certain items. Most of those items are on our every day shopping lists any way like Bananas, Diapers, Cereal and Bread. A simple trick would be to start using these simple applications on your smart phone now and then use that money as extra cash for Christmas. You could easily make an extra $50 to $150 over the next 90 days to put towards your Christmas budget. Make sure you load these applications on your phone and start saving for Christmas now. Ibotta, Checkout 51, Mobisave, Shopmium and Snap By Groupon are my personal favorites.
So often we get bogged down with stress and worry over the holiday season when it is supposed to be the most joyous time of year. Focus on the real meaning of Christmas this year and follow these 4 simple steps to help you both plan and save for the holiday ahead of time. Take your joy back and spend that much needed time with your families and enjoy a debt free Christmas this year.